Additional academic studies will hopefully shed more light on the complex factors driving the crisis. But solutions, even provisional ones, are needed now. I think that at the least, more treatment centers are needed in Alabama for those struggling with opioid addictions. A central challenge is that these persons have few places to go for counseling and treatment. As public policy writer German Lopez puts it, "it is much easier to get high than it is to get help."
From a legal perspective, we need to give our law enforcement officers more tools to crack down on fentanyl, an opioid mix that is fifty times more powerful than heroin. Used as a pain reliever for patients, fentanyl is among the most powerful opioids prescribed by medical providers. Its street form is uniquely dangerous since the drug can be absorbed via the skin or inhalation. In next year's legislative session, I plan to sponsor a bill to make the illicit distribution of fentanyl a Class C felony.
We must see the opioid crisis in the context of broader social problems. As a conservative, I believe government programs are limited in their effectiveness at solving complex social challenges. We need churches, businesses, and community leaders to continue to form creative partnerships, like job-training programs for recovering addicts. The social science publication STAT estimates that 650,000 Americans will die over the next ten years from opioid overdoses. Perhaps no other social crisis in America demands our attention with as much urgency.
Cam Ward, who represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @SenCamWard